Bubil: Calatrava joins honor roll of Florida's architectural greats


Santiago Calatrava is the greatest architect never to have won the Pritzker Prize.

The Spanish architect, sculptor and engineer has completed his first Florida project, Florida Polytechnic Institute’s IST building (see story on this page). In so doing he has joined Frank Lloyd Wright in putting Lakeland on the architectural map. Wright designed Florida Southern College there in the 1930s.

Nothing against Lakeland, but how on earth did it land both Wright and Calatrava, two of my architectural heroes?

Ironically, both have larger-than-life personas, and both are known for having trouble sticking to budgets. Calatrava has been heavily criticized, and sometimes sued, in Spain for extreme cost and schedule overruns.

FLW’s architectural brilliance was not matched by his ability to manage money.

But at least Calatrava reportedly came in on time and under his $60 million budget for Florida Polytechnic’s IST building. And he joins the pantheon of Florida’s architectural greats (those who designed at least one building here). I could name a few, but that might upset those I didn’t name. Heck, I will name some anyway: Richard Meier, Paul Rudolph, Morris Lapidus, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, Arquitectonica, Marion Sims Wyeth, Victor Lundy.

In Lakeland, early controversy over the project’s cost and the tearing away of Florida Polytechnic from the University of South Florida in Tampa has given way to admiration, said Mary Toothman, a reporter with The Ledger. “People are starstruck by it, amazed,” said Toothman.

Toothman described Calatrava as a kind, “very sweet” man. She expected arrogance, but instead found herself interviewing a man with a bit of attention-deficit disorder who sketched a profile of her as they spoke.

The only controversy now concerns a new dormitory building near the IST. Calatrava feels it does not fit the campus theme and is “very disappointed” in it. Toothman described it as a “McDorm,” adding that “it looks sad” next to the Calatrava building.

Calatrava’s resume includes the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Light Rail Train Bridge in Jerusalem, a railway station in Belgium, the “Turning Torso” apartment complex in Malmo, Sweden, and a footbridge in Redding, California.

He continues to work on the PATH station and St. Nicholas Church in New York City. He has offices in Zurich, Doha and New York City. He lives in Zurich.

I can think of a few spaces he could fill in Sarasota.

The Pritzker Prize, by the way, sponsored by the Hyatt Foundation, honors living architects “whose built work demonstrates a combination of . . . talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.”

I’d say Calatrava has done that.

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: August 23, 2014
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